Soar Surfer

by Aaron Notarianni Stephens. 0 Comments

            Sometimes in childhood we are so unaware that we can’t do something that we soar….or in my daughter’s case, surf.  

Superheroes guard us from evil. Fairies make the seasons change. Love is forever secured after one kiss. In childhood, the world can be viewed as mostly good. Along with this view is the perception that anything is possible.

My daughter, Vienna, sums this up by quoting her hero, Bethany Hamilton. Bethany is a professional surfer who, after surviving a shark attach and losing her left arm, returns to the water and her sport. The inner strength that she possessed through faith in God, ultimately led her to find a greater purpose in life. Bethany not only returned to surfing, but she used the curiosity and attention of her story as an opportunity for Christian outreach. 

“I don’t need easy, I just need possible,” Bethany Hamilton is attributed as saying in the movie based on her story, Soul Surfer. Vienna has this quote stenciled on her bedroom wall. I like this quote because it does not imply simplicity in one’s personal journey. Conversely, it implies that possibility exists through the trials we face. I prefer Bethany’s lessons of accomplishment through hard work, dedication and strength as an alternative to the plethora of princesses in peril stories that populate our culture.

Vienna’s affection to the water was evident from her first few days. As an infant, she enjoyed being dipped in her baby bath and was quickly promoted to the jacuzzi tub. It was not uncommon for Vienna to be soothed to sleep in the calm, warm water. By six months, she hit both the pool and the waves in Ocean City. Her interest continued not only in the real world, but in fairy tales as well. She could barely talk, yet she could sign Ariel’s scales from Disney’s The Little Mermaid.     

This past summer, Vienna looked to the lessons of her hero, Bethany, as she once again hit the waves in Ocean City. No longer a baby, Vienna was seven and old enough to try surfing. “Real surfing” is what she called it.

After a few minutes of on-the-beach coaching from an encouraging instructor, Vienna and her teacher entered the water. “Maybe a shark will bite off my arm,” Vienna bragged to her younger brother, Gideon.

Maybe a shark will bite off her arm . Maybe a wave will knock her down and she’ll get hurt. Maybe she’ll get caught in a rip current and be sucked out to sea. Maybe the board will hit her in the head. Maybe she’ll need CPR and I’ll forget how. Maybe Vienna will end up hating the water forever. These and other dreadful thoughts flooded my head as I got caught in the adult mind-frame of cannot instead of a child’s mind-frame of I can. 

As I was stood on shore drowning in my fears, Vienna was sailing over the crests of the early morning waves. Having literally caught the first wave she attempted to ride, Vienna found a new way to tame her old friend, the water. Her confidence allowed her to command where the water’s strength took her. 

Vienna soared.

After her first wave curled into shore, Vienna was eager for more. For an hour, Vienna was the queen of the waves. She learned to ride the sea with confidence. Sometimes the sea invited her for a ride. Other times, the waves overpowered her and challenged her to join them again. Vienna would not retreat to shore. Like her hero, Bethany, Vienna would turn away from the safety and security of shore and face the vast unknowns of an open sea.

Opportunities are usually found within the uncharted waters of our life. While Vienna was learning to surf that morning, the bigger lesson she was learning was that she can. As she matures some fears and doubts will creep in. Some she will easily ride out. Others will be more difficult to overcome. My hope is that in her heart, Vienna will carry lessons passed down by people like her soul surfer so that she can continue to soar.


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